If you’re a particularly adventurous eater, you’ve probably enjoyed the truly unique experience of Ethiopian cuisine. It’s unique in the world, and often critical in encouraging a wider appetite for new cuisines and travel (all puns intended!). But have you ever considered visiting the country of this food’s origins? Ethiopia is a country that is both unique and little understood, and – as Anthony Bourdain finds out on his journey there – , a place filled with great cooks and great music.
Anthony Bourdain visited Ethiopia to film season 6 (episode 6) of Parts Unknown; it was his only visit to the country, but not his only trip to the African continent, or even to the region of East Africa where he also visited Tanzania and Kenya.
If you’re planning a trip to Ethiopia and want to eat well, or are just curious about all the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Ethiopia, you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find a breakdown of all the spots Tony ate in Ethiopia (primarily in the capital city of Addis Ababa) as well as what he ate. Let this be a guide to help you dive deep into the culture of Ethiopia.
Kategna Restaurant (Addis Ababa)
Bourdain’s first stop in the capital city of Addis Ababa is the Kategna Restaurant, where he meets with his companions and de facto guides for this trip, chef Marcus Samuelsson and his wife Maya.
Their chosen dish is the Ethiopian vegetarian platter which contains a bit of everything known as beyainatu. Served on injera, a type of flatbread, there are tasty and colorful piles of vegetables, potatoes, curries, lentil stews, and more.
This particular meal includes gomen, which are sauteed greens, shiro wat, a chickpea stew, and tikel gomen, an Ethiopian white cabbage dish.
All the dishes are spiced with Berbere, an Ethiopian seasoning blend consisting of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, and black peppercorns, together with cardamom, cloves, paprika, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric.
Bourdain is also introduced to the cultural practice of gursha, which is stuffing food in a fellow diner’s face. Not the sort of thing you’d try at a Waffle House!
Local Grocery Store (Addis Ababa)
Tony takes to the streets next to experience urban drinking culture, Ethiopian style. Meeting with the founders of Ethiopia Skate, Abenezer Temesgen, Addisu Hailemichael, Buzeyo Julien, and documentarian Sean Stromsoe, he and Marcus indulge in some turbo, a mix of gin, beer, wine, and Sprite.
Thankfully, there is also cooked meat on hand to soak up this student-esque concoction. A perfect accompaniment, shekla tibs are chunks of fried beef or lamb cooked with onion, ghee, and berbere, served in a charcoal-heated clay pot called a shakla, together with a spicy dipping sauce called mitmata.
Made with African bird’s eye chili peppers, also known as pili-pili peppers, mitmita has an unmistakable orange-red color, not to mention a spicy kick. These peppers weigh in with an average of 175,000 Scoville units, making them approximately 22 times hotter than the spiciest jalapeno.
Unknown Tej Bet (Addis Ababa)
Continuing the late-night drinking, Marcus next takes Bourdain to a tej bet, or honey-wine house. A kind of neighborhood speakeasy, a tej bet is where men gather to catch up on local gossip and relax over glasses of the sweet drink known as tej.
Tej, also known as mes, is a honey wine, like mead, that is brewed and consumed in Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea. It has an alcohol content generally ranging from 7 to 11%. It is often home-processed and consists of three main ingredients; honey, water, and a medicinal shrub called “gesho”, known for its small edible fruits which are shiny red and berry-like.
Shola Market (Addis Ababa)
With Marcus looking to buy ingredients for Doro Wat, the king of chicken dishes in Ethiopia, the group descends upon Shola Market in downtown Addis Ababa.
Here, they purchase fresh butter known as kibbeh, which is found for sale in various stages of fermentation. A medium one is recommended for this dish by the store owner. Also procured are three freshly killed and plucked chickens, together with more berbere spice, which is standard across a lot of Ethiopian cooking.
Ingredients secured, the trio returns to Samuel’s family home to prepare the doro wat, a classic chicken stew. Similar to the beyainatu, the serving of doro wat starts with the injera bread to line the plate, more stewed cabbage, beets, and collard greens, plus root vegetables finished with the livers and giblets of the chicken.
The stew itself is chunks of chicken slow-cooked with kibbeh butter, onions, and stock until they are mouth-wateringly tender.
Family Meal (Gurage Region)
Last on the agenda, Anthony travels with Marcus and Maya to the Gurage region of Ethiopia, to visit Maya’s village. Here, they are greeted with a cup of Ethiopian coffee, served this time with salt in lieu of the regular sugar.
The family meal, prepared by Maya and her family and friends, consists primarily of two lambs, one slaughtered in the traditional halal method, for inclusion in a Gurage-style kitfo.
Again similar to the beyainatu, the kitfo is a platter dish that comes with a centerpiece of the chopped and diced lamb, spiced with mitmata and cooked with kibbeh similar to that purchased in the market earlier.
This is served together with more goman (sauteed greens), as well as Ayib, a traditional Ethiopian cottage cheese, made from sour milk after the butter is removed by churning.
There are also plates of barbecued meat to accompany, and to ensure that no part of the animals go to waste. As the food is served and the music begins to play, Bourdain wistfully pulls at some tender meat with his fingertips. “This”, he states, “I love without reservation.”
Have any questions Have any other questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Ethiopia or how to visit them? Let me know in the comments below!